27-Aug-2003 -- This is the last of three confluences we hoped to visit on a four day, three night trip to northern Saskatchewan. Our trip covered 1842 km from Regina to the culmination of the CANAM International Highway at Southend on Reindeer Lake and back home again. The CANAM (Canadian/American) highway begins in the deserts of Texas and makes it way north through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Saskatchewan before it ends at the edge of Reindeer Lake. It is a paved highway to La Ronge; gravel north of there.
Saskatchewan is perceived as a flat "boring" prairie province consisting mainly of farm and ranch land. Most of the confluences done so far are indeed in southern flat farm fields thus perpetuating this notion. We decided it was time to become adventurous and tackle some of our province's northern confluences. The northern half of the province comprises most of the 54% of Saskatchewan that is covered in forest. Many of these confluences may never be reached as they are in remote spruce, pine, birch, aspen or tamarack forests, interspersed with hundreds of lakes, streams and rivers. We chose three confluences that had the potential for success.
About 9:00 AM we left the La Ronge area and headed south towards Prince Albert via a round about route that would take us near this confluence. We were hopeful but not too optimistic about this one as it is 5 km off highway 913. A looped road shown on the map seems to go within 2.8 km so we hoped to find that.
Shortly after turning onto gravel Highway 165 south of La Ronge, and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, was a tent and a series of blue protective tarps strung in the forest. A man was stretched out on a lounge chair looking quite comfortable. On the side of the road was a hand written sign saying "Mushroom Buyer". We decided that he must be some sort of mushroom middle man. Morels and chanterelles are found in these woods and picked for personal use or commercial and gourmet markets.
39 km along Highway 165 we turned south on logging road 912 which would join with Highway 913 to take us past the confluence area. This logging road was actually better than parts of the bumpy CANAM highway.
As we approached the confluence we took a couple of drives back and forth looking for the loop road shown on MapSource. We found three possible routes leading from the highway toward the east. The first and most northern one took us a short distance before stopping at what appeared to be an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trail. It was a beautiful quiet forested area but we did not explore too far along the trail because we were trying to find the road shown on the map.
The second route off the highway took us a short distance into a gravel pit. The distance from there to the confluence through the forest is 5.1 km. On to the third try.
The third and most promising trail has a yellow sign at the entrance reading, "Airport Road 0506". We did not find an airport in this wilderness area but we were able to drive for 3 km east along this sandy road. Along the way are numbered entrances leading into clear cut areas where all the trees had been harvested. At the end of the road a narrow ATV trail led off into the woods in the direction we needed to go.
We ate our lunch and prepared to head off along this trail. As we ate it began to rain. Off we went anyway, bell in hand, hoping to keep bears at bay. It was a beautiful walk through the woods. The floor of the forest is covered in a carpet of moss and bright red berries. It was easy walking for half a kilometer but the trail abruptly ended at a pile of neatly stacked firewood. At the forest edge we were still 3.1 km from the confluence. For all we knew it might have been a trek of 3 or 4 hours. We had passed marshes and bogs along the "Airport Road" and there could be more on the way to the confluence. On a 3 km hike through these woods any type of terrain could be encountered, perhaps even a blackened forest from hell as at N56° W104°. If it hadn't been threatening more rain, if the forest didn't look so thick, if we hadn't still been recovering from the grueling toll on our bodies the day before (i.e. muscle spasms), and if it was earlier in the day, we might have headed off through the woods. This confluence is left for another time or for someone younger and more fit. As we walked slowly back to the van we enjoyed the beauty and peace of the forest along this little trail. We left the area feeling somewhat disappointed that we had not reached the confluence but consoled ourselves with ice cream and chocolate bars at Candle Lake and enjoyed the beauty of that area. The night was spent in Prince Albert and we returned to Regina on the 28th.
Suggestions for future visitors to this confluence: there is a small resort at Whelan Bay on White Swan Lakes 5 km west of the highway near the confluence. This resort has motel units, modern cabins or campsites. At Candle Lake, just 25 km southwest of the confluence, there are stores, gas station, campgrounds, restaurants and various accommodations. Staying close by would allow for an early morning start. You will find the yellow "Airport Road 0506" sign at N54° 00' 20.4" W105° 05' 36.0" just off Highway 913 which, by the way, is paved.
We never did find the loop road shown on MapSource. In hindsight we wonder if the first ATV trail we found is this "loop road", even though it does not show up in exactly the same place on the map. It might be worth further investigation.